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Future Trends in Microelectronics: Up the Nano Creek by Alex Zaslavsky, Jimmy Xu, Serge Luryi

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Towards Molecular Medicine

Henk van Houten and Hans Hofstraat

Philips Research, High Tech Campus 34, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

1.   Introduction

Historically, the human species has lived with the expectation of dying quite young from violent external factors or from infectious diseases. Considerable progress in world health arose eventually from improvements in living conditions – hygiene, access to safe drinking water, improved quality and variety of nutrition. However, many major infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis or syphilis, were not understood, and could not really be treated. In most cases, the medical profession could only offer palliative care. As Lewis Thomas recalls the years of his training to become a medical doctor in the early 1930’s:” … it gradually dawned upon us that we didn’t know much that was really useful, that we could do nothing to change the course of the great majority of the diseases we were so busy analyzing, that medicine, for all its façade as a learned profession, was in real life a profoundly ignorant occupation.”1 Medicine only started to be a science with the realization that diseases have their origin in microbiological processes. Since the 1930’s, much progress has been made, with the discovery of antibiotics and the development of very effective vaccines.

As a result, life expectancy has increased dramatically, first in Europe and North America, but now also in countries such as China. Unfortunately, the increased life expectancy is ...

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